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Statistics That Will Make Your Head Hurt

Lest anyone think I was exaggerating in my Sunday morning recap rant, here are two sets of statistics demonstrating MSU's inability to convert short-yardage rushing attempts this season:

  • 3rd and Short
    For the season, MSU has attempted rushes on 20 third-down plays with 3 or fewer yards to go.  They have gained 18 yards on those attempts (0.9 yards/attempt) and converted only 8 of the attempts into first downs.  They were 8-19 in such situations going into Saturday's game.  (Source)
  • Goal Line Plays
    MSU has now gone 10 straight goal-to-go rushing attempts from inside the 5-yard line--spanning 3 games--without a touchdown.  On those 10 rushing attempts, they have gained a total of 2 net yards.  Six of the attempts came in the two games that preceded the Minnesota game.

So it's not as if the coaching staff didn't have sufficient evidence going into Saturday's game that running the ball up the middle in short-yardage situations wasn't likely to be a successful endeavor.

Again, could putting Kirk Cousins in a spread formation on the goal line be any less effective than rushing the ball out of power formations has been?  (Or, to be less innovative, how about just running a play-action pass on first down, rather than third down, when the defense knows it's coming?)

Based on the goal line data from the last three games, no, it could not have been--as a matter of simple mathematics.